11.04.2013 1

Some things you might have missed


By Marta H. Mossburg

The media is consumed as it should be by the massive failure that is HealthCare.gov and the hundreds of thousands of people throughout the United States losing health insurance as a result of Obamacare. But there are a few other stories that shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle. Here are two:

The first is about the troubling relationship between sex trafficking and the foster care system – a topic addressed by an October 23 hearing in Congress. My guess is that what much of what Americans know of foster care and adoption comes from heartwarming movies like “The Blind Side.” That movie tells the amazing life story of Michael Oher, who started out the son of a drug addicted mother who bounced between foster homes and homelessness before being adopted by the Tuohy family in Memphis, Tennessee, becoming a football standout at the University of Mississippi and a 2009 first round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens.

It’s a captivating story about resilience and the power of love and deserved the wide audience it won. But his life is by far the exception to how foster children turn out, not the rule, as testimony in the Ways and Means subcommittee meeting revealed.

Some facts about the correlation between the foster care system and sex trafficking: According to a 2012 report in the Los Angeles Times, 59 percent of juveniles arrested for prostitution in Los Angeles County in 2010 were in the foster care system. The National Center for Missing and Exploited children reports that of those children reported missing – many of whom are likely sex trafficking victims – 60 percent were in foster care or group homes when they ran away.

And many children are never reported missing, because that would mean losing a check for families charged with caring for those children.

According to the prepared testimony of Withelma Pettigrew, who spent most of her childhood in the foster system and is a board member of Human Rights Project for Girls, “traffickers/pimps/exploiters have no fear of punishment because they rely on the lack of attention that occurs when these young people go missing. … Many children, myself included, who grow up in foster care express how it is common household knowledge that many caregivers take them in primarily for the paycheck in which they are provided for the purpose of caring for the child.”

This is not to disparage the thousands of families who take great care the children they foster, but it means that policies must be in place to better screen potential foster parents and verify that children live with families receiving money for them at the very least. Here is a perfect example of the most vulnerable in society, the ones the government is supposed to protect, left totally helpless to those who exploit them, often with taxpayer money.

Story number two: According to a recent report in the Daily Caller, federal agents took a reporter’s personal files during an August raid of her home in Maryland in search of illegal guns.

The journalist, Audrey Hudson, used to write for The Washington Times and is now a freelancer. Department of Homeland Security agents had a search warrant allowing them to look for guns in the home she shares with her husband Paul Flanagan, who unknown to the couple, was prohibited from owning firearms. After the search started, she was asked by one investigator, a former air marshal official, if she was the same journalist who wrote a series of articles critical of air marshals.

“They took my notes without my knowledge and without legal authority to do so,” Hudson told the Daily Caller. “The search warrant they presented said nothing about walking out of here with a single sheet of paper.” She provided a photo to the publication of the files taken during the raid that she said contained information on confidential sources inside the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration.

Last time I checked, warrants don’t allow for the discretional add-ons of agents raiding a home. And just because Hudson is not the Associated Press or James Rosen of Fox News does not mean her story deserves less attention. This administration’s pattern of silencing any criticism is anathema to a free press and indicates why National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden went to Russia seeking freedom.

Marta H. Mossburg writes frequently about national affairs and about Maryland, where she lives. Follow her on Twitter at @mmossburg.

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